Recapping the Trojans first big recruiting weekend

With nine official visitors on campus and another 30-plus unofficial visitors at the Coliseum for the Trojans 45-27 win over Notre Dame, USC took an aggressive move toward signing a full class of recruits for 2017.

Friday, USC hosted its biggest in-season recruiting weekend in more than a decade. 

It was a big weekend for recruiting literally and figuratively. The Trojans hosted nine official visitors, all of which were frontline players with the exception of Layton (Utah) four-star linebacker Tayler Katoa

Katoa is a mid-year graduate who came into the visit looking at Washington and Utah as favorite schools. However, USC is his childhood dream school, and he spent time at the annual All-Poly Camp in Utah last summer working with USC linebackers coach Johnny Nansen. 

Katoa would most likely come in to USC as an inside linebacker, playing the MIKE or WILL role. At 6-foot-2, 225-pounds, Katoa spent much of his junior and sophomore years playing quarterback and defensive end. He didn’t spent significant time playing middle linebacker until his senior year, which is when USC offered him a scholarship. 

Katoa says he will more than likely delay his Mormon Mission out of high school, so he will enroll at his college of choice in January. Katoa is expected to host USC head coach Clay Helton on an in-home visit next week and should have a decision on a commitment shortly after. 

Sacramento (Calif.) four-star defensive end D.J. Johnson remains committed to Miami, but sources in Florida say the Hurricanes are nervous about where they stand with the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Under Armor All-American. The big rangy defensive end also plays wide receiver for Burbank High School, which demonstrates his athleticism as a pass rusher.

The Trojans have done a good job recruiting rush ends the past few classes, signing Oluwole Betiku and Connor Murphy last cycle. Both players played as a true freshman at the Predator position for USC, but both also have the potential of growing and playing as defensive ends as well. Johnson, like several other official visitors did make it to campus with his parents in tow, which is positive news for USC’s chances of signing him. Right now, Miami and Washington appear to be the Trojans’ main competition for his signature. The Huskies, in fact, could be the team to beat.

Birmingham (Ala.) three-star defensive end Alec Jackson and Portland (Ore.) three-star defensive tackle Brandon Pili also made the trip to USC with their parents. Jackson returns to USC after sending the week in Los Angeles (Calif.) for the Rising Stars Camp in June. Auburn has long been thought to be the lead school among Jackson’s list of favorites choices, but another trip to L.A. with his parents gives USC fairly good footing in Jackson’s recruitment. 

Phoenix (Ariz.) five star offensive tackle Austin Jackson was an equally important Jackson on campus last weekend. With USC losing starting right tackle Zach Banner and starting left tackle Chad Wheeler to graduation, offensive tackles are at a premium for the Trojans on the recruiting trail. 

As fellow visitor and USC offensive line commit Andrew Vorhees said in an interview last week, "We need him."

Jackson appeared to make the trip with not only his parents, but his grandfather who played at USC. The Trojans have been considered a frontrunner for Jackson since midseason, but his family ties to the program have made USC a favorite since last summer when he was offered a scholarship. Contrary to reports, Jackson is not expected to graduate in December, so USC will now have to hold serve on his officials visits. Jackson should have a decision signing day, if not late January.

USC would love to bookend Jackson with Graham (Wash.) five-star offensive tackle Foster Sarell. The Army All-American offensive tackle surprised many with his official visit to USC instead of Alabama. Sarell hasn’t listed USC as a favorite school since early in the recruiting process, but the Trojans improvement on the field will continue to being in recruits such as this. 

For most of the recruiting process, Sarell has listed Stanford and Washington as his two favorite schools. Post his visit, the feeling is that Stanford is still going to be difficult to beat for his signature. USC has what amounts to be a punchers chance.

Yuma (Ariz.) Western Arizona four-star tight end Jeremy Patton might be the most intriguing prospect who visited USC last weekend. Patton, committed to Arkansas, was offered a scholarship by USC mid-season. He has three years of eligibility to play two years of college football and should be able to transfer from Arizona Western in January.

His presence on campus signifies that USC does indeed plan to take two tight ends in the 2017 class. As far as a commitment goes, Patton should be making a decision soon. The junior college signing period is Dec. 14 for mid-year graduates. 

That will be around the time Kapolei (Hawaii) three-star defensive end Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa wants to make a commitment public. Tagovailoa-Amosa also visited USC with his parents and grandmother last weekend. Tagovailoa-Amosa will officially visit Oregon Dec. 8 and then make an announcement mid-December. USC is the school to beat at present date, although the 6-foot-4, 270-pound defensive tackle has another visit planned for Vanderbilt the last week of January. 

One key factor in the recruitment of some of these prospects is timing. USC may be the hottest team in college football right now with an eight game winning streak. A big bowl victory will only increase the likelihood that more highly touted players will be calling the Trojans coaching staff to set up official visits. 

No public commitments right after the weekend’s festivities has a lot to do with when these visits took place. The Trojans will undoubtedly take a full class of recruits in 2017 as they brace for junior draft defections and transfers. But even with 23-25 spots available, USC does not want to fill up on commitments too fast. Anticipate further movement among current commits and new potential targets in the next two months. 

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